The National Football League, Race, Coach Flores, Intellectual Capability and Cerebral Output
Artist’s impression of John Edmonstone teaching Darwin to preserve birds © State Darwin Museum
This is a hot, delicate, inconvenient but inescapable topic.
It is a terrain anyone without access to the inner workings and ecosystem of the business of big time sports must traverse gingerly. I will strive to do just that.
In the context of this article, it is fitting that the ongoing discourse between former Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores and the National Football League (NFL) is taking place during Black History month.
The profundity of the poisonous nature of misconception of the term “Race”, vis-a-vis skin color, and the insufficiency of human reason and imagination to push through its stone walls prevail.
Brief Historical Background: African Descendants & Darwinism
When we look at human history and the issue of ‘Race’ over the last 300 years, one of the most influential thinkers is the British Naturalist, Charles Darwin, (1809 –1882).
No in-depth discussion about “Race” is complete without including the work of Darwin.
Ironically, as a 16 year old who became disenchanted with the study of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Darwin learned the foundation of his future craft in the shop of a freed slave, a Guyanese man called John Edmonstone.
Charles Darwin was a man of his time with a complicated legacy.
In 1823, John Edmonstone, a freed slave who became a Bird-Stuffer had set up a shop at 37 Lothian Street, close to the University of Edinburgh buildings.
According to information from the National Records of Scotland,
“Darwin was disillusioned with his medical studies and enjoyed ‘often to sit with John Edmonstone and learn to Bird-Stuff for a charge of ‘one guinea, for an hour every day for two months’. Five years later, Darwin was to set sail on HMS Beagle, and survey the coast of South America”.
Darwin writes in chapter V11 of his work, The Descent of Man:
“Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in color, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, etc., yet if their whole structure be taken into consideration, they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these are of so unimportant or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races.The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races can be named; yet I was incessantly struck whilst living with the Feugians on board the Beagle, with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate”.
Researchers have shown that the “full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate” was John Edmonstone.
Charles Darwin had no training in genetics or neuroscience. Today, we know from science that mental capability and what human minds can engage in emanate from the brain not from the skin.
Regarding Diversity , one of the most unfortunate accepted norms in our society is seeing diversity largely through the lens of skin color.
What we all have to genuinely acknowledge is the fact that the color of the skin has absolutely nothing to do with the quality and quantity of the output of the human brain.
Role of Science in NFL’s Efforts To Address Race Relations
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has declared the results of their efforts to promote diversity within head coaches ranks is unacceptable.
“We will reevaluate and examine all policies, guidelines and initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion, including as they relate to gender. We are retaining outside experts to assist in this review and will also solicit input from current and former players and coaches, advocates and other authorities in this area”; he stated in his memo.
Not that I am in anyway qualified to give Commissioner Goodell advice on how to manage this burning issue. Just exercising my option as an ardent NFL fan.
May I humbly suggest that the “outside experts” should include geneticist, paleontologist and neuroscientist. They will provide much needed input and advice on the unfortunate and too often neglected settled scientific fact of One Human Race.
Furthermore, it is likely that the 32 owners of the NFL teams have different worldviews and different starting points for their existential humanistic framework. The outside consultants from the scientific arena will certainly bring fresh perspectives.
Asking and Learning — Moving Forward
It is probably too much to ask our generation and the next and the one after the next to be skin color neutral. The hope is that maybe by the year 2122, such a request will be totally irrelevant.
Coach Brian Flores was fired despite two consecutive winning seasons in Miami, the first time the Dolphins achieved that since 2002–2003.
As expected in big organizations, most likely there are relationship issues at play at the corporate level, the details of which are unknown to us.
However, what is not too much to ask for in 2022 is for the major stakeholders in this discourse to join Commissioner Goodell to ask, learn and uphold the real truth about “Race” moving forward.
The NFL is such a potent force in the social scene and its powerful influence on our culture is indisputable. The challenge is whether it can rationally take meaningful and sustainable actions on this thorny issue.
Hopefully, this episode will be another paragraph or chapter in our education about the truth of the concept of “Race”, not only in the NFL, but in society, the African Diaspora at large and even among the populations in Africa.